Chronoscope: K-Outland, Prologue

“Bullshit.”

The word rolled off her tongue like silk and judgment.

He stared back, unblinking for a moment in the challenge.

“Why.” More statement than question.

You,” she pointed, “are scared. Actually scared, and I’ll spare no veracity on your account. It’s pretty cute.”

“So?” A shrug. He stuck his pipe back in his mouth, tugged at his cowboy hat.

The breeze brushed at her cloak, draped over the stone chair.

The white tabernacle sat in a small clearing, long unused, in the low woods near the coast.

Light played down soft between layers of leaves.

“I know what you’re gettin’ at.”

“Do you now.”

Her leathers creaked as she crossed her legs.

She uncrossed them.

“Never did like doing that.”

“You do realize what the stakes are. Game’s kinda changed there, little killer.”

“Yep. We were talkin’ about you. Why d’you think I went ronin?”

“’Cause you got scared?” A dry smirk. Perhaps a touch of admiration.

“Focus now, little killer. You want to see, or not?”

The card danced through her fingers.

Their horses, tethered a little ways off, pawed the earth as they ate.

“Why do we keep comin’ here?”

“Yeah, now you’re gonna get all existential on me. Have you seen that shit on the outskirts lately? Christ, humor me here.”

He laughed. “What the hell do we deserve? Ever figure that one out?”

She snapped her fingers, and small blue flames danced across the air past his head.

A bird sang through the sudden silence.

His eyes narrowed. “This hat’s a relic, y’know. 20 X. Probably get a couple bags of rice for it, if I had the desire.”

“Do you?” The dry smirk given in return.

“What.”

“Have the… desire?”

“Just show me the—“ She slammed the card on the tabernacle.

“Knight of Wands.”

“Huh.” Like someone had just shown him an interesting rock.

Her eyebrow arched. “You know what this means?”

“I know it means any damn thing you want it to.” He tapped out his pipe, stowed it.

She stood. “It’s there for what you need, genius. Take it or leave it.” Started towards her horse.

He got up and debated following; she’d already thrown her saddle back on.

“Please. I’ve seen the face of God. He needed a shave. Next?”

He sighed, and followed to the horses.

She handed him the deck. “I’ve got more.”

He laughed quietly. “Somethin’ to remember you by?”

She tilted her head.

“You need objects for that?”

His arms found her, without warning, pulled her in.

Her hand twitched, in want of her gun.

Her breath caught, and the heat between them was a tangible thing.

“When you comin’ back to the Table?” he asked, softly.

Shrug. She let go and mounted up. “I dunno.” Her cloak didn’t hide her eyes.

He tied down his staff and got on.

She started to ride off.

“Hold on.”

She stopped. Tilted her head slightly.

“Hold on to what?”

“Just hold on. Ok?”

She turned, and nodded. Rode without looking back.

The air carried a faint mist with it through the sunlight. He took his pipe out, letting the horse take him in the general direction of his new destination.

He tamped it a few times before taking one long draw, and made little clouds in between the vernal air and the weight of everything else.

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